Conference realignment brings Utah State and San Jose State over from the WAC, which dropped football after the 2012 season. The conference splits into two divisions - mountain and west - and will stage a championship game on the home field of the division-winner with the highest BCS ranking.
The Congrove Computer Rankings project the inaugural title game to take place in San Diego where the Aztecs will knock off Utah State by 6.62 points.
Brady Hoke got the SDSU program back on track in and Rocky Long has continued the upward swing. The program won no more than 5 games in 8 of the 10 seasons prior to Hoke's 2010 breakout campaign, but has now produced 26 wins in the last 3 years.
Utah State, which is coming off it's first conference title since the 1997 Big West, lost head coach Gary Andersen to Wisconsin. Former Aggie star QB Matt Wells, the offensive coordinator under Andersen, takes the reigns with lofty expectations for 2013. Utah State has won 17 games over the last 2 seasons after winning just 16 games over the previous 6 years.
San Diego State is picked to run its conference slate and lose at Ohio State by under 4 points on its way to an 11-1 record. Utah State's only forecasted blemishes on a projected 10-2 campaign are on consecutive road trips to USC and San Jose State in games 4 and 5 of the season and both games have margins under 3 points.
Perennial front-runner Boise State gets saddled by the computer with a down year. The 7-5 prediction would be the Broncos' worst performance since 1998 and halt a 7-year streak of double-digit wins. Congrove's rankings say Chris Petersen's bunch will go 1-5 on a brutal slate with losses by 8.95 in the opener at Washington, 4.98 at Fresno State, 7.22 at Utah State, 8.54 at BYU and 11.51 at San Diego State. Nevertheless, Boise State is projected to take 2nd in the Mountain division, breaking a tie with Colorado State by downing the Rams at home.
Air Force is surprisingly picked to finish last in the Mountain with just 3 wins overall and only 1 in conference play. The AFA was just 6-6 in the regular season a year ago, a mark correctly projected by the CCR. A 33-14 loss to Rice in the Armed Forces Bowl left head coach Troy Calhoun with the first non-winning season in his 6 years at the helm.
San Jose State, the 2nd-place finisher in the WAC a year ago, will be the biggest threat to San Diego State in the West division. The November 9 showdown is at San Jose, but the computer still gives the Aztecs the slim edge by 2.16 points. The Spartans lost head coach Mark MacIntyre to Colorado. The new head man is Ron Caragher whose University of San Diego (FCS) teams won three conference championship in his six years as head coach while he compiled a 44-22 record. MacIntyre was 16-21 overall and 8-13 in the WAC, but the Spartans turned in a banner season in 2012 with a 10-2 overall record and a 5-1 conference mark.
Both San Jose State and Fresno State are forecasted to go 10-2 overall. The bottom 3 teams in the West are predicted to win 8 games total between them.
Nevada is anticipated to slide to 4-8 in the Wolf Pack's first season under Brian Polian following the retirement of Chris Ault. The 38-year-old is the son of longtime NFL executive Bill Polian. He served as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator in 2012. Ault had just two losing seasons during a 28-year career in Reno. The school had 5 losing seasons out of 9 campaigns in Ault's absence when the Hall-Of-Fame coach twice tried to step aside.
Hawaii will reincorporate the use of the word "Rainbow" in its nickname and will be called the Rainbow Warriors this season for the first time since dropping the "Rainbow" tag in 2000.